ON THE day that the UK’s Minister of State for Pensions visited Lodge Road, veteran striker Michael Meaker showed he is not ready to retire just yet by scoring a 16-minute brace to inspire Yate to victory over Stratford Town.

Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb was a special guest as part of the club’s Supporting the Local Community Day and he watched on with delight as Meaker produced a vintage performance to give the Bluebells a 2-1 first half lead before James Harmer wrapped up the points with ten minutes to go.

Rather like Ryan Giggs, who came out from the cold to help Manchester United overturn a 2-0 deficit against Olympiakos in the Champions League last 16 tie in midweek, 42-year-old assistant manager Meaker rarely starts these days but usually makes an impact whenever he is called upon in the side’s hour of need with his vast experience proving invaluable.

Indeed, Yate’s need for a win to keep their play-off hopes alive following three consecutive defeats led to Meaker’s recall to the starting line-up for the first time in the league since October and it took him just 11 minutes to make his mark.

After Mike Bryant played a ball over the top of a static Stratford defence, Meaker beat the offside trap and rounded goalkeeper Andy Kemp, who came a long way out of his box, and finished nonchalantly into the unguarded net to double his goal tally this season.

However, Stratford looked more composed on the ball in the early stages and it was no surprise when they hit back with an equaliser seven minutes later.

Yate goalkeeper Martin Horsell misjudged the flight of Simeon Tulloch’s cross in the wind as he came off his line and got nowhere near the ball, allowing Chris Sterling to stick out a boot and direct the ball goalwards with the back-tracking Billy Fletcher unable to clear it off the line.

The hosts regained the lead nine minutes later as the frantic start continued.

After a neat lay-off from Meaker, Lewis Haldane burst into the box and his shot-cum-cross reached Harmer at the back post. The pint-sized winger headed straight into the ground from inside the six-yard box before Meaker bundled the ball over the line.

The Bluebells ended the half in the ascendancy and Haldane’s fierce strike crashed off the underside of the bar after he latched onto Ross Staley’s quickly taken throw-in.

When Yate were awarded a free kick just outside the corner of the penalty area 11 minutes into the second half, Harmer looked like he was going to send in a cross but his attempt had to be clawed out from under the bar by Kemp.

While Stratford always looked dangerous on the attack, they didn’t create many clear-cut chances and their back three were left exposed.

Haldane got in behind the defence after Sam Kamara’s through ball but his lob over Kemp hit the top of the bar. As the ball came down Loyiso Recci’s attempted headed clearance from on the line hit the post before landing in the grateful arms of the goalkeeper.

Yate wrapped the win up three minutes later though. Haldane was denied again when Kemp took the ball off his feet after Harmer’s pass but the ball squirted back to the energetic midfielder, who slammed home.

Yate Town: Horsell, Cox, Clifford, Chandler, Fletcher, Abraham, Harmer (Bryan, 84), Bryant (c), Meaker (Rogers, 74), Haldane, Staley (Kamara, 62). Subs not used: Ricketts, Harrison.

Ref: Mr C Wade.

Att: 184 Gazette star man: Michael Meaker – Made a difference.